teacher Jason Boe stood back Saturday and watched several students clambering up a wall at the school. They grabbed hand hold after hand hold to climb higher and higher against the dark surface. Each student was watched carefully below by another student who clutched the rope that was connected to a ceiling attachment, and then to a harness that the climber wears around his or her hips.
The Health and Physical Education teacher, Boe could have had some time to himself or time with his own children that day, but instead he was supervising the at their practice.
“The students begged me to get this going,” Boe said about the climbing club. “The students run it. They learn, and in turn, teach other students."
As students progress up the wall, instructions might be giving from the student below, called the belayer. ‘Try a little more to your left.' or 'It’s right there.’ The course of watchfulness belongs to the people on the floor, who watch as the climber navigates painstakingly up the wall, taps a spot or bell, then with a bound drops back down gliding along the rope. The ride down is the reward for the climb up.
"We recently introduced a new style of climbing," Boe said. "The students learned it so they can teach others. It’s student taught, compared to me just knowing it and teaching it.”
He added that the lead role is one students must be prepared to undertake.
“To lead, the students must learn belaying skills, safety, proper and improper techniques," he said.
The club, which has thirty members, just turned a year old. Since there is so much interest in being in the club, tryouts had to be held this year. The club is limited to juniors and seniors.
“A lot of the kids here don’t do any other athletics; although, some of them do,” said Boe, who also coaches high school soccer. “I’m hitting a whole other culture.
"This is a different breed.”
The students' interest has spurred Boe’s desire to expand the climbing wall in the small gym at the high school, but that won’t happen until financing is found.
Club members are practicing for a March competition at Vertical Endeavors, which is an indoor rock climbing facility in Warrenville. The March gathering will pit Minooka climbers against some of the best climbers in the Central states region.
Several other suburban schools are looking at the Minooka program as part of their school’s decision to create a climbing club, Boe said.